The Fraud Files: Alberta NDP govt says AER performing well, No plans for any improvements. Energy Minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd: “[AER] is working well. Industry likes it.”

Methane plan will take work, energy regulator says by David Howell, December 4, 2015, Edmonton Journal

Developing a plan to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas industry will be a major task for the Alberta Energy Regulator, president and CEO Jim Ellis said Friday.

As part of its new climate-change goals, the Alberta government wants to reduce energy-sector methane emissions by 45 per cent by 2025. The energy regulator has been assigned a lead role in developing standards that are to come into effect by 2020.

The work, to be done in concert with the energy and environment ministries, will include applying new emission design standards for new facilities, and taking action on venting and fugitive emissions from existing facilities and from pneumatic equipment powered by natural gas.

“That’s going to be a significant amount of work because of the sheer numbers of pieces of equipment and operations that are operating in the field,” Ellis said. “There’s a whole bunch of things within this file that we regulate that we’re going to have to take a look at.

“It’s early days, but it wouldn’t surprise me that we at the AER are going to have to reach out and bring in some technical expertise. I don’t know numbers, I don’t know what that looks like right now. We’re waiting to hear some information from government on where we’re going with that.“

The oil and gas industry is responsible for 70 per cent of all Alberta’s largest source of methane emissions. Methane makes up 25 per cent of all emissions from the upstream oil and gas sector. It is roughly 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a heat-trapping gas.

The regulator will also play a role in the 100-megatonne limit on overall oilsands emissions that is part of the government’s climate change plan. “That all runs through the authorizations for oilsands projects, and renewals of current ones that are in place right now,” Ellis said. “We’ll wait to see where the government is going to go on this, to give us direction.”

Established in 2013, AER is the single regulator of energy development in Alberta. It has about 1,200 employees who regulate 160,000 active wells, more than 20,000 oil and gas batteries, nearly 600 gas plants and more than 415,000 kilometres of pipelines.

The regulator dealt with several high-profile compliance issues in 2015, including a failed pipeline at Nexen Energy’s Long Lake operations that leaked five million litres of bitumen emulsion. The AER also shut in 16 Murphy Oil Co. wells near Peace River after finding them in non-compliance.

Ellis said he is pleased the government has decided against reviewing the regulator’s mandate. Premier Rachel Notley had voiced concerns that the AER has responsibility for both promoting energy development and protecting the environment, but a mandate review is now off the table.

“This will certainly make our lives easier,” Ellis said. “We’re working in a very high-stress environment right now with low commodity prices and lots of friction in the system. This added friction would have been a challenge to deal with, so from my perspective it was welcome news.”

The downturn this year hasn’t reduced the volume of work for the regulator and its staff, Ellis said. [Emphasis added]

Alberta government says energy regulator review won’t include its main mandate by The Canadian Press, December 3, 2015, BOE Report
The Alberta government says the province’s energy regulator is performing well and there are no plans to make major changes to the agency.

Premier Rachel Notley had voiced concerns that the Alberta Energy Regulator has responsibility for both promoting energy development and protecting the environment.

Energy Minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd said Notley’s comments were misconstrued.

“She (Notley) and I have been clear since the beginning that we are not breaking up the AER,” the minister said in an interview Thursday.

“It is working well. Industry likes it.

Last month, the NDP announced a review of 300 government agencies and boards, including the energy regulator, to ensure they are performing to the maximum benefit of Albertans. A report on the first phase of the review is expected by March.

A few weeks after the announcement McCuaig-Boyd sent a letter to AER chairman Gerry Protti to reassure the agency that the review would not include its regulatory mandate.

“While the governance structure will be examined under the review, I have confirmed with Premier Notley that the AER’s regulatory mandate does not need to be reviewed,” reads the letter.

Jim Ellis, the energy regulators president and CEO, said the agency is heartened by the decision.

“The government of Alberta recently advised us that they will not be proceeding with a review of our mandate,” Ellis said Thursday in an email.

“This is an important signal to the AER and a validation of the important work we do … ensuring the efficient, safe, orderly and environmentally responsible development of Alberta’s energy resources.”

In 2013, the regulator took over responsibility for reviewing the effects of oil, natural gas, oilsands and coal projects from Alberta’s Environment Department. That change stemmed from legislation that was passed to make it easier for the energy industry to navigate the regulatory system.

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers said the decision not to review the AER’s mandate will help maintain regulatory certainty within the industry as it deals with depressed commodity prices.

The government’s letter reaffirms that the regulator has a stable, solid mandate and is performing well, [or, is reaffirming oil industry control of government, and greed and cowardice of captured elected officials?] said David Gowland, manager of the association’s Alberta operations.

“Any time there is a question about mandate change or reviews, that creates a lot of uncertainty and tends to spook investment in Alberta, both Canadian and foreign investors,” Gowland said.

“Taking this off of the table helps to restore some of that stability and trust.”

McCuaig-Boyd said the government is confident in the AER, but she wouldn’t rule out changes in the future. 

“There are always areas where we can improve and we are working on those, but as a single regulator.”

The government announced Alberta’s climate change strategy last month. The plan includes a carbon tax, limits on oilsands emissions and phasing out coal-generated electricity.

McCuaig-Boyd said the government will be working with the regulator to achieve those goals.

“I have talked with Mr. Ellis on that,” she said. “He said there is lots of work to do, but we are going to get through it and we are quite confident that we can make the whole industry better.” [Emphasis added]

NDP minister reassures Alberta Energy Regulator about review by John Cotter, The Canadian Press, December 3, 2015, Global News

The Alberta government says the province’s energy regulator is performing well and there are no plans to make major changes to the agency.

In the past, Premier Rachel Notley has voiced concerns that the Alberta Energy Regulator has responsibility for both promoting energy development and protecting the environment.

“She (Notley) and I have been clear since the beginning that we are not breaking up the AER,” the minister said in an interview Thursday.

“It is working well. Industry likes it.”

Last month the NDP announced a review of 300 government agencies and boards, including the AER, to ensure they are performing to the maximum benefits of Albertans.

A report on the first phase of this review is expected by March.

A few weeks later McCuaig-Boyd sent a letter to AER chairman Gerry Protti to reassure the agency that the review would not include its regulatory mandate.

“While the governance structure will be examined under the review, I have confirmed with Premier Notley that the AER’s regulatory mandate does not need to be reviewed,” reads the letter.

Jim Ellis, president and CEO of the AER, said the agency is heartened by the decision.

“The government of Alberta recently advised us that they will not be proceeding with a review of our mandate,” Ellis said Thursday in an email.

“This is an important signal to the AER and a validation of the important work we do ensuring the efficient, safe, orderly and environmentally responsible development of Alberta’s energy resources.”

In 2013, the AER took over responsibility for reviewing the effects of oil, natural gas, oilsands and coal projects from Alberta’s Environment Department. [And control of all of Alberta’s fresh water]

That change stemmed from legislation that was passed to make it easier for the energy industry to navigate the regulatory system.

McCuaig-Boyd said the government is very confident in the AER, but wouldn’t ruling out making some changes to it in the future.

“There are always areas where we can improve and we are working on those, but as a single regulator.”

She declined to give any specifics.

Last month the government announced Alberta’s climate change strategy.

The plan includes a carbon tax, limits on oilsands emissions and phasing out coal-generated electricity.

McCuaig-Boyd said the government will be working with the regulator to achieve its targets.

“I have talked with Mr. Ellis on that,” she said. “He said there is lots of work to do but we are going to get through it and we are quite confident that we can make the whole industry better.” [Emphasis added]

NDP quietly endorses Alberta Energy Regulator and its ‘single-window’ mandate by Stephen Ewart, December 3, 2015, Calgary Herald

After months of speculation about the future of the Alberta Energy Regulator, Premier Rachel Notley has quietly reaffirmed its mandate and will not break up the arms-length government agency that oversees the province’s oil and gas industry.

Notley had expressed concerns about the “conflicting mandate” of the regulator shortly after her NDP government was elected in May and promised a “rigorous review” of its role. But on Nov. 20 — two days before the premier announced her provincial climate change plan — a letter arrived at the AER’s Calgary offices that confirmed the status quo. 

The three-paragraph letter addressed to AER chairman Gerry Protti from Energy Minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd stated the province would review how the board of directors oversees the regulator — as it is doing with all provincial agencies, boards and commissions — but the structure of the two-year old organization would remain in place.

“To get a letter like that, it doesn’t need to say a whole bunch of flowery stuff, all it needs to say is ‘We’ve decided there’s no requirement to do a mandate review’ and that says everything,” AER president and CEO Jim Ellis said in an interview Wednesday.

“That’s really important for inside the wire here; for staff because they were worried about it, but also important are the folks on the ground — the industry and we’re building much stronger relationships with First Nations, Metis and ENGOs — whereas a split of the regulator would stop a whole bunch of activities.”

The AER has about 1,200 employees who regulate, among other things, 415,000 kilometres of pipelines and 180,000 oil and gas wells in the province.

Even with the Notley government’s ambitious new climate change policies and a royalty review that’s due later this month, it was the threat to break up the “single-window” regulator that most unsettled many in industry. The AER was established in 2013 to oversee oil, natural gas and coal development from initial applications through final reclamations to improve efficiency and reduce “onerous” levels of red tape so Alberta industry was more globally competitive. [Or was it in reaction to the Ernst vs AER lawsuit and to remove “public interest” from the regulator’s mandate?]

The new regulator assumed some oversight functions previously in the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development.

McCuaig-Boyd had revealed there would be no changes to the AER, with little fanfare, in response to a question in a legislative committee meeting days before Protti received her letter.

“The AER is not being split up. We are reviewing the board of the AER, and that has been confused in the press,” McCuaig-Boyd said on Nov. 16. “We’re quite happy with how it’s developing. We’ve heard loud and clear from industry that they do not want to see it go back to the old way.”

Industry has long pushed for “regulatory efficiency” but critics had expressed concern the streamlining would reduce checks and balances on development intended to protect the environment. In June, the newly elected premier Notley told the Herald she had concerns about the AER’s dual roles as “a promoter of energy and the primary vehicle of environmental protection.”

As an opposition politician, Notley was harshly critical of the former Conservative government’s appointment of Protti, a former industry executive, to chair the board which oversees the AER. She had also called for Ellis to resign after a 2013 court ruling found the provincial environment department had been biased against environmental groups in an oilsands hearing when he was deputy minister.

Apparently, those earlier misgivings have been resolved. It only remains to be determined if the six-member, part-time board Protti chairs, as the McCauig-Boyd letter states, is “performing to the maximum benefit of all Albertans.

It was certainly good enough for Ellis.

“It’s good news for us to get that clarity,” he said. “To me, that’s the OK. Now we have to continue to support the government, continue to be seen as Alberta’s regulator and continue to perform in an excellent manner and we’ll be fine.” [Why did Ellis say “to be seen as Alberta’s regulator” instead “to be Alberta’s regulator?” Just a smoke and mirrors “regulator” as experienced by landowners harmed by oil and gas and the AER?]

In September, the AER received a report it had commissioned from the Penn Program on Regulation at the University of Pennsylvania on development of the frameworks and tools to ensure it’s a “best-in-class energy regulator.” The report listed three attributes of excellence — integrity, competence and engagement — and included recommendations for the AER to balance energy development with environmental protection.

The first new task for the AER after its status was confirmed came days later when the regulator was given the lead role for part of Alberta’s new climate change plan that obliges companies to reduce oilfield emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, by 45 per cent over the next decade.

Ellis acknowledges it will be a challenge to get there, but the former combat soldier is brimming with confidence with a renewed mandate and fresh marching orders. [Emphasis added]

Brilliant comments by Diana Daunheimer:

Diana Daunheimer
“I am appalled by this inside job appointment … how can we trust Mr. Protti’s independence, objectivity and judgment?” – Rachel Notley, NDP environment critic, April 2013.

“The new regulator has an obligation to Albertans to protect our water and our air and land and to trust and ensure our oil and gas development is sustainable. Albertans need to trust that’s happening and that’s not going to happen when we appoint someone as closely tied to the industry as Protti.” – Notley, April 2013.

From a “rigorous review” and being appalled, to a quiet little letter and being “quite happy.” Calling for Protti’s resignation to being his best pal (gag). My how fast the silver tarnishes and truth, principle, integrity and professionalism are flushed down the toilet.

Also my, how seasoned our Energy Minister is getting at lying to the public. She had this to say November 16th: “The AER is not being split up. We are reviewing the board of the AER, and that has been confused in the press,”
but this was said earlier this year:

“As premier, Notley immediately promised a “rigorous review” of what she has called the AER’s conflicted mandate as “a promoter of energy and the primary vehicle of environmental protection.”

Energy Minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd recently confirmed she’s had regular meetings with AER executives — including a session with chairman Gerry Protti, a particular focus of Notley’s earlier complaints — and said the review of the regulator’s mandate should be completed by the end of the year.”

Here is her other foray into lying for the industry in her short tenure-saying there was no sour gas detected in the air at the recent Encana sour gas/condensate blow-out by Fox Creek, when there was: Alberta energy minister says no deadly sour gas detected in air after well blowout by Jodie Sinnema, September 22, 2015, Edmonton Journal
http://ernstversusencana.ca/encanas-deadly-sour-gas…

“…as the McCauig-Boyd letter states, is “performing to the maximum benefit of all Albertans.” I’m sorry, just how is this possible, dear complicit Energy Minister, when the AER has no public interest or public health mandate?

“We’ve heard loud and clear from industry that they do not want to see it go back to the old way.” Yes, that’s all you’ve listened to, the industry. All the calls, emails, pleas and evidence from impacted landowners, harmed families, damaged land, water wells and lives, were dutifully ignored and silenced.

I am unsure just what organization deserves more scorn at this time, the corrupt AER or the unscrupulous NDP.
Dec 5, 2015 7:36am

Bruce Aitken
Just means that everything will remain status quo up at the provincial legislature for now. Seriously, it’ll take a good 12-20 years of NDP winning the elections for this to become a NDP province.
Dec 3, 2015 7:04pm

Harvey Johnson
steve english please crawl back into whatever cocoon hatched you,this AB. not mexico ,you will not live long any way so have a little joy creep into your life before it ends.Mosquitoes & alarmist need swatting quite often for the annoying reason
Dec 3, 2015 2:24pm

Steve English
Insults and bullying are the only refuge of the ignorant
Dec 5, 2015 11:17am

Steve English
The extremists are the oil and gas industry and their apologists. The State of New York along with many others have put a stop to fracking in their jurisdictions, stating “extreme risks to public health at all stages of operations.” The AER is not looking after the environment in Alberta. I refer you to Andrew Nikiforuk, award winning journalist, and his new book, “Slick Water, Fracking and One Insider’s Stand Against the World’s Most Powerful Industry,” Greystone Press, Vancouver / Berkeley, 2015. He tells the story of just how protective the AER isn’t of our environment. I also refer …See More
Dec 3, 2015 9:33am

Steve English
correction : the compendium is at http://www.psr.org/assets/pdfs/fracking-compendium.pdf
Dec 3, 2015 9:35am

Tomas Douglas · SAIT Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (Calgary AB Canada)
Steve – Nikiforuk is a writer whose primary goal is to sell his books. He was a good buddy and admirer of the terrorist bomber Weibo Ludwig who terrorized people in northwest Alberta for years when he damaged oil and gas installations and pipelines with bombs. Nikiforuk sympatized with Ludwig and wrote a book about the terrorist.
The New York ban was a political decision not one based on facts. The “Compendium” you referenced is a biased collection of opinions as stated “For this third edition of the Compendium, as before, we collected and compiled findings from three sources: articles from peer-reviewed medical or scientific journals; investigative reports by journalists; and reports from or commissioned by government agencies.” The majority of this report are over blown opinions on the potential risks, there is little factual data. Several examples in the report demonizing fracking saying it produces VOC’s and benzene are ridiculous. The biggest source of VOC’s are plants/vegetation and for people the biggest risk is paint in their house not fracking operations. Similarly with benzene where the biggest risk is smokers and the next worst source is vehicle emissions, not fracking operations. This “Compendium” referenced a news article “Texas Agency finds high benzene levels on Barnett Shale” however if one actually reads the reference article the Texas Agency tested 94 sites and found 2 that had high levels but those two sites levels were a mechanical problem that were quickly fixed by the company. Are 2 instances out of 94 a “serious” problem?
There have been over 174,000 wells in Alberta that have been fracked since the early 1950’s and yes there has been a few instances where there has been a problem however none have been serious. If fracking operations were so dangerous and risky wouldn’t there be dozens of instances here in Alberta of documented problems. Where are the detailed factual reports about “the devastation of our fresh air, water and soil” problems here in Alberta?
There are 140 air monitoring stations throughout Alberta and the daily air quality is available through Alberta Environment and overall the air quality is improving.
Public water systems are sampled on a frequent basis as required by Alberta Health and any problems would be reported. Private water wells are the responsibility of the owner and should be sampled and tested on a regular basis and owners can submit samples to the provincial laboratory for analysis and a report. The majority of water well problems reported are usually due to microbial contamination due to lack of proper maintanence. The biggest problem with Alberta’s ground water is the shortage in southern Alberta due to increase in demand due to industrial and population growth.
The people who denigrate fossil fuels and the oil and gas industry fail to recognize the benefits that our society have gained because of the availability and low cost of fossil fuels. We grow more food because of mechanization, we import more food because of cheap transportation costs, we have lower infant mortality and we live longer because of excellent health care due to a better economic society that has cheap available fossil fuel.

Diana Daunheimer
Tomas Douglas

Mr. Douglas,

I have a copy of Saboteurs by me right now (long overdue to our local library I’m afraid). Have you read this book? The reader does not get the impression that Andrew Nikiforuk is sympathizing with Mr. Ludwig, but that the story is being told in an intelligent and impartial way, for you to suggest otherwise is out of line. In fact, even in the Acknowledgements Mr. N states that on several points of fact and interpretation he simply disagrees with Weibo Ludwig. Funny that you fail to mention that the Alberta Energy Corporation also engaged in “terrorism” when under Gwen Morgan, they hatched a plan to frame Ludwig by bombing one of their own well sites. You should read the book, fascinating stuff.

I notice you make no mention of Nikiforuk’s latest well-researched behemoth, Slick Water. Why not? Are you an admirer of corruption and criminal activities to cover up industry’s contamination, including fraud, by regulators, governments, research councils, health care agencies, and our courts?

Sickening isn’t it, that so many are now documented trying to cover up the public health threat that is industry’s groundwater contamination – right down to gopher-sh!t dipping regulators. “Microbial contamination due to lack of proper maintenance?” Perhaps regulators who are contaminating people’s water wells with gopher sh!t, under the guise of investigating industry contamination, should be hunted down and charged like war criminals. I’m sure you won’t find any “detailed factual reports” on that quiet Alberta terrorism, but you’ll find it all factually detailed and referenced – in Nikiforuk’s Slick Water.

“Several examples in the report demonizing fracking saying it produces VOC’s and benzene are ridiculous. The biggest source of VOC’s are plants/vegetation and for people the biggest risk is paint in their house not fracking operations.”
This is utter baloney, beyond ridiculous. Go to the NPRI website and start downloading the data sets on gas plants, not houseplants. They emit thousands of tonnes of BTEX’s and other VOC’s (benzene is a VOC) and other hazardous substances into Alberta each year. Pengrowth Olds plant, 102 tonnes last year. http://www.ec.gc.ca/inrp-npri/donnees-data/index.cfm…
Venting, flaring and incineration in Alberta releases hundreds of millions of m3 of emissions, in which numerous VOC’s are present. Check out the AER’s ST-60b.

Paint, really? You know there are those of us that use no VOC paint and just how would you refute our VOC testing, done through the U of C, that show BTEX (and other VOC’s) concentrations 4-5 times that of the City of Calgary. We have no traffic near us, the testing was done outside, the only thing around our home is fracked wells.
Ask the AER just how much testing they are doing, point source, I dare you. All monitoring in Alberta is done on non-point source emissions and parameters are very few, in most cases, BTEX’s and VOC’s are not tested. All by design.

As per water, you are woefully uneducated. Drinking water guidelines in Canada do not have limits on many industry contaminants (even including gasoline and other petroleum products) and many are not tested in routine events. Owners of private water wells simply can not afford the comprehensive testing (nor should they have that burden) needed to address all the contaminants possible by industrial activity.

Blind proponents of the industry fail to accept and address the very serious consequences of a captured regulator, weak enforcements, industry that has no check and balance, complicit politicians and health departments. Where are all the detailed reports on harms to our air, water and soil. Great question, you should ask the AER just how the manage to keep all this hidden so well, ADR, gag orders?!?

Energy comes in many forms, it need not be dangerous and poisonous and the current supply can not be considered cheap, especially when you factor in the impacts, including those to public health. And as for that infant mortality you mention, you need to read this:
http://www.rollingstone.com/…/fracking-whats-killing…
Dec 4, 2015 9:32pm · Edited

Jason Keeling · Providence College
Almost like they want to see industry succeed so there’s jobs for Albertans instead of just pushing extermist environmental groups and tying our industry up in years of regulartory BS. To have someone who is from the industry and understands the industry leading this organization makes a heck of a lot of sense…

One of the few intelligent decisions Notley has made.
Dec 3, 2015 8:54am

Jesus-Ernesto De Hijar Bocanegra
We had a “geological hazards” specialist from the Alberta Geological Survey (part of AER) meeting “in camera” with our pro-mining municipal council in Crowsnest Pass. The public was not told about any hazards. We don’t know why he was here. When I asked AGS I was told I could make a FOIP request.

I am disappointed that the NDP perpetuates the muzzling of scientists.
Dec 3, 2015 8:52am

Tomas Douglas · SAIT Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (Calgary AB Canada)
AGS which is part of AER have been studying the Turtle Mountain (Frank Slide) for years and have installed instruments on and around the mountain. AGS is probably interested in what goes on in the Crowsnest Pass area especially in regard to any proposed activity.
http://www.ags.gov.ab.ca/geohazards/turtle_mountain/
Dec 3, 2015 2:42pm

Steve English
How terribly disappointing that we still have the fox employed to guard the henhouse. When the henhouse is our air, water and soil, this is no joke; just a disastrous lack of vision and foresight. We hoped the NDP would do better; this will continue to be everything for the profits of Industry, nothing for Albertans but pollution and devastation of our environment.
Dec 3, 2015 8:14am

Jason Keeling · Providence College
Definitely better the NDP put one of their typical ‘hires’ from an extremist environmental group in charge vs someone who understands and is respected by industry…

Considering the Alberta energy industry is a global leader for innovation in improving environmental practices while extracting oil and gas, it’s great to see someone who actually knows what they are talking about in charge.

Disappointing Steve English? Come on…

Jim might just care about the health of industry, creating jobs for families in Alberta while protecting our environment instead of just killing jobs and the future of Alberta…
Dec 3, 2015 9:13am

AER not told of Alberta’s plan to cap oil sands emissions by Jeff Lewis, December 3, 2015, The Globe and Mail
Alberta’s top energy regulator was not consulted about a provincial plan to cap oil sands emissions, raising questions about how the signature climate policy will be implemented.

NDP Premier Rachel Notley unveiled the measure last month as part of a sweeping strategy aimed at slowing growth in climate-warming greenhouse gases and blunting opposition to stalled oil sands pipelines.

It emerged from negotiations with top executives at Suncor Energy Inc., Royal Dutch Shell PLC, Cenovus Energy Inc. and Canadian Natural Resources Ltd.

Under the policy, oil sands emissions would be capped at 100 million tonnes a year. They are about 70 million tonnes currently, leaving some room to expand. There is also an allotment for projects that use co-generation and an unspecified provision for bitumen processing.

But the Alberta Energy Regulator, the watchdog tasked with enforcing the limits, was not consulted on the plan and says key details must still be hashed out.

Among the biggest is how the 30-million-tonne allowance for growth would be divvied up as companies jostle for new approvals, said Jim Ellis, president of the AER.

One option is to green-light new projects on a first-come, first-served basis, he said, but added: “I’m not sure that’s the right way to do business.

“We’re going to have to sit down with the government and have that discussion, because as a regulator we don’t pick winners and losers.”

Complicating matters, the regulator has already approved projects with emissions levels that collectively could blow through the new cap, raising questions about whether existing permits would be revoked.

The agency has approved as much as 2.1 million barrels a day of new growth, according to figures from the Pembina Institute.

Some of that capacity has been squelched by the collapse in U.S. and global oil prices, but the figure is nearly double the level analysts say would be permitted under the cap without technological breakthroughs.. …

The moves have drawn mixed support. Large competitors with major oil sands stakes, such as ConocoPhillips Co., BP PLC, Husky Energy Inc., Devon Energy Corp. and Imperial Oil Ltd., have stayed on the sidelines.

It is also unclear whether the cap will cool opposition to major pipeline proposals, such as Enbridge Inc.’s $7.9-billion Northern Gateway or TransCanada Corp.’s $12-billion Energy East, that are designed to ship oil sands crude to richer global markets.

Environmentalists involved in the discussions insist no grand bargain is at play, noting Alberta’s emissions are still forecast to grow between now and 2030. But they also acknowledge that the province’s new strategy will change the narrative around the oil sands.

Tim Gray, executive director of Environmental Defence, said the NDP was cognizant of Ontario’s experience with cancelled gas plants and very concerned about the prospect of liabilities and compensation claims that might arise if the cap was set any lower, forcing projects under construction to be abandoned.

Mr. Gray said the Alberta plan leaves some crucial questions unanswered, including how the country will meet emission-reduction targets while the province’s emissions continue to rise for at least a decade.

“We’re not exactly wild about the fact that [oil sands] emissions are going up to 100 megatonnes,” said Mr. Gray, who joined Ms. Notley on the stage for the announcement on Nov. 22. “But it changes the narrative about Alberta, and we have to acknowledge that.” [Emphasis added]

Energy minister has high hopes for royalty review reception by James Wood, December 3, 2015, Calgary Herald

Energy Minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd says the oilpatch will welcome the energy royalty changes that will be introduced by the NDP government later this month.

Friday is the final day for public submissions to the government-appointed royalty review panel chaired by ATB Financial president Dave Mowat and the province has committed to releasing its report by the end of the year.

In Calgary, McCuaig-Boyd told a Canadian Association of Petroleum Land Administration (CAPLA) luncheon on Thursday that with the current downturn due to slumping oil prices, the government “has no desire to make things more difficult for producers” and “there is no assumption rates will rise.” [Why is the Energy Minister publicly disclosing to industry her conclusions before the report is complete and released? Was the review all a facade?]

In an interview, the energy minister said she believed the reception from the sector towards the royalty plan will be positive.

“It’s going to be good. We’ve collaborated all along with them. We promised them from the beginning that there wouldn’t be any surprises and we’ve been in constant contact with lots of them,” she said.

“I’ve had zero comments against how we’ve done this from industry.”

The minister said she’s hoping the review will be released before Christmas, but may not make that timeline. The rollout will be similar to the NDP’s recent climate change plan, in that the government will likely move on the recommendations of the royalty review panel as the report is released.

The Notley government has committed to not implementing any royalty changes until the start of 2017 to provide more certainty to the oilpatch.

The royalty report will come as Alberta continues to grapple with crude oil prices that are hovering around US$40 a barrel, hammering the government’s finances and leading to thousands of oilpatch layoffs.

It also follows closely on the government’s climate change plan, which sees the NDP commit to introducing a $3-billion carbon tax in 2017.

McCuaig-Boyd said the carbon tax won’t have a huge effect on the royalty review, but noted the panel is considering the full package of costs facing the energy sector.

She said the panel is also considering ways to help stimulate the industry [Give industry what the Wildrose/Harper party wants to implement? Near zero royalties and zero regulation?], along with measures to promote economic diversification and development, but she provided few details.

Panel member Peter Tertzakian said recently the review will lead to changes to Alberta’s current royalty regime, promising a modernized, streamlined system that provides greater incentives in high-value resource areas. [Sounds like REDA legislating the public interest out of the AER’s mandate and plunking Ex-Encana VP Gerry Protti Chair of the fraudulent “No Duty of Care,” legally immune – even for Charter violations, non-regulating “regulator.” ]

The approach has won the support of oilpatch executives such as Murray Edwards, chairman of Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., who recently said he was hoping for a more simplified royalty structure.

CAPLA chief executive Cathy Miller said Thursday there is a widespread feeling within the energy industry the government can’t impose additional costs on companies while oil prices are low.

“People are happy about the level of consultation that is being done, but they are still concerned about the outcome in a situation where our industry is already depressed,” Miller told reporters following the luncheon.

Many of the questions posed by association members to McCuaig-Boyd dealt with ensuring that oil and gas professionals who have lost their jobs don’t end up leaving the industry and the province.

The minister appeared to suggest at one point that workers who had lost their jobs in Alberta could go to British Columbia, but told reporters later she was referring only to the mobility of skilled tradespeople with red seal certification.

McCuaig-Boyd said the government doesn’t see B.C. as a safety valve for laid-off Alberta workers and there is potentially more Alberta could do to keep skilled workers in the province.

“We all know the (oil) price is going to go back up, so how can we keep people in Alberta. That’s a challenge for everybody,” she said.

At the legislature, Wildrose Leader Brian Jean said the NDP are ramming through changes “people don’t want down their throats,” including the review of royalty rates.

“The energy sector says that it’s being crushed by the uncertainty of the royalty review. The premier doesn’t care,” Jean said during question period. [Emphasis added]

Secret deal on Alberta’s oilsands emissions limits divides patch by Claudio Cattaneo, Financial Post, November 30, 2015, Calgary Herald
A hard cap on oilsands emissions that became part of Alberta Premier Rachel Notley’s climate change plan was the product of secret negotiations between four top oilsands companies and four environmental organizations, the Financial Post has learned.

The companies agreed to the cap in exchange for the environmental groups backing down on opposition to oil export pipelines, but the deal left other players on the sidelines, and that has created a deep division in Canada’s oil and gas sector.

Four oilsands leaders — Murray Edwards, the billionaire oil investor and chairman of Canadian Natural Resources Ltd.; Steve Williams, president and CEO of Suncor Energy Inc.; Lorraine Mitchelmore, president of Shell Canada; Brian Ferguson, president and CEO of Cenovus Energy Inc. — stood behind Notley Nov. 22 as she announced an aggressive climate change plan for Alberta. In addition to imposing a $3-billion a year economy-wide carbon tax and phasing out coal-fired electricity generation, the plan strictly caps the oilsands’ share of provincial emissions at 100 megatonnes per year, from about 70 megatonnes today.

The plan is a big part of Canada’s offering to the UN climate change summit under way in Paris.

During the Edmonton announcement, the four leaders praised the plan, with Williams describing it as a “game changer” for the oilsands.

Notley indicated in her speech that it could lead to less opposition to pipelines to export Alberta oil sands production.

“I’m hopeful that these policies, taken overall, will lead to a new collaborative conversation about Canada’s energy infrastructure on its merits, and to a significant de-escalation of conflict worldwide about the Alberta oilsands,” she said.

But leaders of competing companies, including Imperial Oil Ltd. chairman and CEO Rich Kruger,  and MEG Energy Corp. president and CEO Bill McCaffrey, were not consulted and are reportedly outraged by the secret deal. The arrangement’s details and backers, other than the Pembina Institute, remain unknown, said senior industry sources.

They also worry the deal is unenforceable and that it is premature to support a policy whose details and financial implications remain unknown.

“What deal can one do with NGOs?” asked one senior industry source. “How is it binding and how does that translate into binding the premier and regulators to market access?”

The cap has raised questions about how the remaining quota of emissions will be allocated. Industry analysts expect there is room for an additional one million barrels a day of oilsands production, which would be achieved in the next decade. Other assets could become worthless, resulting in major writedowns.

Even companies that produce conventional oil and gas, such as Encana Corp., are concerned that the four oilsands companies broke ranks with the rest of the industry, represented by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

The deal could decide new winners and losers, said another senior source. “Potentially, it could put oilsands miners … against in situ, heavy oil against light oil.”

Pius Rolheiser, a spokesman for Imperial Oil, which just completed an expansion of the Kearl oilsands project with parent Exxon Mobil Corp., said his company doesn’t comment on rumours. However, he said “Imperial believes any GHG policy for Alberta should be designed to protect the competitiveness of the province’s oil and gas industry.  We are studying the announcements from the Alberta government to assess their impact on our existing operations and possible future projects in Alberta.”

MEG Energy did not respond to a request for comment.

CAPP president Tim McMillan said the group supports part of the climate change plan, such as the increased use of natural gas in electricity generation to replace coal and a reduction of methane emissions. But there are also details on the carbon tax and on the oilsands emissions cap that need to be clarified, he said, “and we have been pursuing those over the last week.”

“We have started working through the numbers and we have concerns about how this could affect our province,” McMillan said from Paris, where he’s attending the climate change conference.

On Friday, Edwards acknowledged that the negotiations with green groups were controversial. He said on the sidelines of the Bennett Jones Lake Louise business forum, of which he is a co-sponsor, that informal meetings took place over the past year with the leaders of Canadian and U.S. green organizations as a way to push the conversation on the oilsands in a new direction. [Synergy Alberta at its most evil]

“The end result, time will tell, but I think it’s going to lead to more positive discussion, (rather than) the adversarial discussion we had in the past,” Edwards said in Banff. He could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Ed Whittingham, Pembina’s executive director, said during the climate change announcement that Alberta’s plan would “change the debate about the oilsands industry and whether the oilsands industry is doing its fair share to reduce climate change.” Whittingham was not available for comment Tuesday.

Notley was only informed about the deal in the days leading to the climate change announcement. The rest of the industry was advised a day before.

Tempers flared when the four oilsands leaders briefed CAPP members last week. [Imagine how their tempers would flair if Encana illegally frac’d their water supply, and Pembina Insitute schmoozed & synergized with the AER to help Encana get away w it]

Strolling Memory Lane with Synergy Alberta (funded by CAPP, AER and the Oil Patch), including master synergizer Tzeporah Berman:

Secret Meeting Planned, then Cancelled, between ENGOs and Tar Sands Companies
Invitees included Tzeporah Berman, World Wildlife Fund, ForestEthics by Dru Oja Jay, April 7, 2010, The Dominion

“Ask a toad”: Suncor is now the largest tar sands extraction company, and the fifth largest oil company in North America. It has an ongoing partnership with the Pembina Institute. 

MONTREAL—A secret meeting between top Canadian Environmental Non-Governmental Organizations (ENGOs) and tar sands corporations was cancelled after word of the meeting spread beyond the initial invitees, according to two emails leaked to The Dominion.

Billed as a “fireside chat” and an opportunity for “deeper dialogue” in a room at the Vancouver Art Gallery, the invitation was sent by Marlo Raynolds of the Pembina Institute on behalf of himself and Gord Lambert of Suncor. Suncor is the fifth-largest oil company in North America, and the Pembina institute is a high-profile advocate for sustainable energy in Alberta. The invitation was marked “confidential.”

Ten representatives each from tar sands operators and high-profile environmental groups were invited to the “informal, beer in hand” gathering. The David Suzuki Foundation, Environmental Defence Canada, Forest Ethics, Pollution Probe and Tides Canada were among the invited environmental groups. Merran Smith of ForestEthics was listed without affiliation, as was Tzeporah Berman, who worked to privatize BC’s rivers as director of PowerUp Canada, and who is slated to start work this month as Greenpeace International’s Climate Campaigner. Among invited oil companies were Shell, ConocoPhilips, Total and Statoil. Leading tar sands investor Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) was also on the guestlist.

The event would be, the invitation explained, “an opportunity for a few ENGOs and a few companies to share their thoughts on the current state of relations and explore ideas on how a deeper dialogue might occur.”

Three days later, Raynolds sent a second email, cancelling the gathering, owing to “the level of tension” between “a subset of companies and a subset of ENGOs.” The followup email specified a legal dispute. Sources in Albertan environmental circles suggested pressure to cancel came from threats to expose the meeting publicly.

“I personally believe we all need to find a way to create the space and conditions necessary for deeper and meaningful conversations to find some solutions,” wrote Raynolds, explaining the cancellation. “I do hope that in the coming months, we can work to create those conditions.”

The invitation to the secret meeting came as several of the invited groups had signed on to an open letter to Enbridge, asking it to cancel the Northern Gateway Pipeline, which would pipe tar sands crude to BC’s central coast, to be put on oil tankers. The letter was published as a full page ad in the Globe and Mail.

In 2008, the Pembina Institute and the Canadian Boreal Initiative (financed by the Pew Charitable Trusts; see “Can Pew’s Charity be Trusted?,” November 2007) released a report proposing “conservation offsets” as a way to mitigate the destruction of biodiversity by tar sands operations.

According to Pembina, conservation offsets “allow resource companies to compensate for the unavoidable impact to biodiversity from their development projects by conserving lands of equal or greater biological value, with the objective of having no net loss in biodiversity.”

Pembina acknowledged a contribution of $44,000 from tar sands operator Nexen for the “costs of the document.”

Petr Cizek, a land use planner and long-time critic of ENGOs’ campaigns because of their lack of transparency and accountability, said it is to be expected that prominent environmental groups will meet in secret with oil companies.

“Is this surprising? No. Is this blatant? Yes,” Cizek said.

“The issue isn’t negotiation or compromise. I’ve done lots of both in my time. The issue is whether the negotiations are transparent and the organizations are democratic. Virtually none of these organizations are democratic,” he said.

Environmentalists invited to the secret meeting have come under fire by grassroots environmental activists for their secretive, back-room approach to negotiations with corporations in previous campaigns. Tzeporah Berman and Merran Smith both acted as negotiators when ForestEthics and other BC ENGOs accepted a deal that protected 20 per cent of the Great Bear Rainforest.

Some grassroots organizations and First Nations were furious at the deal, which settled for half the minimum protected area outlined in protocol agreements signed by environmental groups and First Nations prior to the negotiations. (The area protected by the Great Bear deal was later increased to 30 per cent after First Nations’ land use plans forced reconsideration of some of the concessions.)

Cizek said he is not bothered by the outcome of negotiations, but by the lack of accountability and public oversight.

“My issue isn’t the fact that they protected only 30 per cent, or that they protected the wrong 30 per cent. In some cases, maybe that is all that you can achieve. These negotiations can be really ugly. I’ve been there,” he said.

“My issue is that they lied to and betrayed and broke a deal they had with the smaller organizations.”

In a 2009 interview published in the report Offsetting Resistance, Valhalla Wilderness Society (one of the smaller organizations Cizek mentioned) Director Anne Sherrod made the connection between the Great Bear Rainforest agreement and the tar sands.

“These are greenwashing deals. I am speaking out about this because there is evidence that the collaborative agreement industry may be moving to the tar sands,” said Sherrod. [Indeed, Tzeporah Berman soon thereafter moved to synergize (con the public) to help the oil patch continue polluting and destroying the environment in the tarsands.]

“I want everyone to know that issues where people are dying of cancer from serious pollution is no place for this kind of thing. Open public process is your best friend in situations like this. Insist on it.” [Emphasis added]

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